Archive for December, 2013

William Couch 13th September 1944 – 22nd December 2010.

The Lord of the Rings by William Couch. Pencil and charcoal on paper.

PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.

GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?

GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

PIPPIN: Well, that isn’t so bad.

GANDALF: No. No, it isn’t.”

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archies mirror

I was lying next to my son and we were staring up at the ceiling in his bedroom.  The cracks, shadows and peeling paint seemed to form land masses, islands and oceans; an entire world was taking shape above our heads.

“That’s a sea,” I said. “But it isn’t an ordinary sea, it’s a solid sea; a sea made of rocks and frozen waves. How about over there?”

“That’s a forest,” he replied.

“Oh yes. Is there anything strange about it?”

“It’s made of smoke instead of trees and giant scary spiders live there.”

“I like it…”

And that’s how the creation of the Land Beyond began, and from that came the inspiration for my book, Archie’s Mirror.  By the time we’d finished our exercise in ceiling cartography, we’d also established that there was a desert of blue moon sand where it’s permanently night, a town that looked as though it had been stitched together like a patchwork quilt and a palace hidden within a range of mountains carved from ice, inside which was a terrible secret.  This conversation between the two of us is replicated as a descriptive passage in the finished story and provides the reader with their first glimpse of the Land Beyond.

With the world taking shape I had to think about how I wanted to populate it.  Even though it contains the fantasy staples of sorceresses, giants, monsters and knights, I wanted to put a particular spin on them to keep the reader guessing.  And so the sorceress becomes an eccentric borderline bag lady (and part-time baker) whose particular wisdom has to be picked out of the erratic stream of consciousness that falls from her lips.  Similarly the giant is a golf-playing former thespian who you could describe as being closer to Richard Harris than Hagrid.  There there’s Palindrome the monkey with two faces, a cloud cuckoo who has a small, bad-tempered, but essential role to play (if you ever needed to build a cloud, who else would you look to?) and the Moon Wolves; real party animals, named after beatnik writers – people have since asked me, why beatnik wolves?  To which I always reply, wolves are cool, beatniks were cool so why not? It makes perfect sense to me.

So, in creating what I hope is a believably fantastical world and populating it with what I hope are believably fantastical characters, I had the landscape in place against which I could set Archie and his dog Max and their search for Archie’s missing father, the mysterious stage magician, Grimoire.  Archie’s Mirror has been written for both young and old to enjoy.  It’s a story with layers, some of which are peeled away by the end of this particular story, while others remain firmly in place to reveal their secrets in the second and third volumes of the trilogy.

As a first-time writer I’m really interested in getting feedback from readers who have explored the Land Beyond with Archie and Max, so do get in touch. In the words of the Sorceress: “This world fits together and works differently to the one you’re used to. Although, I suppose there are pockets of activity. Strange and unusual and a whole lot of…fun. I suppose those could be considered magic, if you wanted to consider them so.”

This blog post was written by Geoff Turner, author of Archie’s Mirror.  Geoff can also be found on Twitter (@geofftee), and The Land Beyond trilogy has a Facebook page here.

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So it’s knitwear time!  I’ve knitted and crocheted quite a diverse range of items over the past few years, but in terms of things I could actually wear I’ve managed nothing more adventurous than scarves and shawls.  I’ve always fancied making mittens but always had The Fear of doing something that looked so complicated.  Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about it more and more, mainly because my knitting has improved considerably after knitting so much for my Beekeeper’s Quilt.

knitting and crochet mag

In mid-November my fella bought me a surprise – the magazine pictured above.  I’ve not tried Knitting & Crochet magazine before so it was a lovely gift, and there were quite a few patterns inside which I liked the look of including some fingerless mitts.  Of course I couldn’t wait and got stuck in straight away.

The pattern was very straightforward (they’re knitted flat and then sewn up), and it only took a couple of evenings to get the mitts finished.  I’m SO pleased with them!

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The right mitt is ever so slightly tighter than the left mitt as I did that one second and was afraid that the yarn would run out, so my tension was greater – next time I will make sure I don’t knit so tightly (I should have trusted that the magazine would supply enough yarn for the pattern!).  I really like the style of the mitts, especially the cuffs, and I may well make another pair in colours that suit me better (blue isn’t really me, sadly), and I will definitely be trying out some other mitt patterns over the next couple of months!

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It’s been a while since I last reviewed a book, and although I usually stick to reviews of craft books I’m breaking with tradition to help promote my brother-in-sin’s* latest offering.

Archie’s Mirror is Geoff Turner’s first foray into writing children’s literature, and it’s really rather good (for non-Brits, this translates as “excellent”).

Of course you may well be reading this and thinking “Well of course she’s giving it a good review, it was written by someone in her family.”

That’s not the case at all.  Although I tweeted briefly about it the day the book was published on Amazon, I refused to blog about it until I’d actually read it – and I certainly wouldn’t recommend something unless I truly liked it!  Family and friends of the author were promoting Archie’s Mirror all over Twitter and Facebook immediately after it was published, but I preferred to wait and see what it was like because I think I owe it to my blog followers to give an informed opinion.  So here it is, the review I submitted to Amazon.co.uk:

As an adult who still loves children’s literature this book was a joy to read. Imaginative and engaging, it ticks all the right boxes to capture the imagination of both children and adults alike. Children will enjoy the story for its own sake, and adults will too – with the added bonus of things like the beatnik wolves, a nice nod to more mature popular culture which might pass over the heads of younger children. The basic concept of the book bears a strong parallel to the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, but with a slightly darker feel (and without being weighed down by religious metaphors!) – if I had to describe this book in one sentence I’d say it was Narnia for the modern generation. Given how much I’ve always adored the work of C.S. Lewis this is high praise indeed.

The story develops well and at a good pace, so it’s easy to get engrossed. I’m looking forward to the second book already!

I genuinely enjoyed Archie’s Mirror, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who has children, or who likes a bit of children’s fiction themselves.  The book costs 97p on amazon.co.uk ($1.57 from amazon.com) and at that price it’s an absolute steal – so please do buy it, and having bought it please read it, and then review it yourself (it’s no good selling lots of copies if there are no reviews to encourage future customers!).  Unfortunately the book isn’t currently available in other e-reader formats, but if you keep an eye on the Facebook page you’ll get a heads up as soon as it is.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this review, and that I’ve tempted you sufficiently to go and buy a copy of the book yourself.  Geoff has been kind enough to write a little blog piece about Archie’s Mirror, and how he came to write it, which will be published on this blog next Saturday – so please pop back to read it!



*Geoff would be my brother-in-law if it weren’t for the fact that I refuse to marry his brother – why bother after over a decade?

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wip 04-12-2013_01Last weekend was an exceptionally busy one, and although I had a great time at the Christmas Flea I was more than ready to get back to my usual routine this week.  As the festive season draws nearer I’ve had various commissions to juggle.  First up was an order of mug sweaters, which I’ve just finished today…

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I’ve also had some actual notebooks to make…

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…and I have one more to complete and then I’ll be up to date with custom orders (for now!).

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No, not an actual disaster, but a commission inspired by the Paper Plane range by Disaster Designs.  Back in January I was contacted by a friend who wanted a guestbook made for her wedding.

I’d like something A4 and landscape with coptic binding, as suggested, and we’re expecting 120 guests.  We’ve not really got a theme for our wedding, it’s a bit of a mishmash!  Our invites are vintagey luggage tags and I love the Disaster Designs paper plane range with the old airmail border, old maps, that sort of thing.  My bridesmaid will be wearing teal/turquoise but we’re not going nuts with a specific colour theme.  I don’t imagine that’s very helpful really!

She also included links to some of the Disaster Designs items she particularly liked.  Despite her fears, this was all incredibly helpful!  I had a think, and played around with a few ideas.  My first thought was to have sturdy fabric pages covered with pockets so that guests could write their message on a luggage tag and then slot it into the book – this idea didn’t really get past the rough stage, but it’s certainly something I might attempt at a later date!

In the end we settled on the design you can see pictured above.  I used a map print by Cavallini & Co for the covers: it would have been nice to use a map which was more personal to the bride and groom, but they were born at opposite ends of the country so it wasn’t that practical!  I chose a lovely tan leather to create the look of a quarter-bound binding, and attached a luggage tag to the front bearing the names of the couple and the date.  The idea of using some airmail bias tape as a tie closure was abandoned as, in the end, I thought it made the design look too cluttered.






I did use some airmail style bakers twine on the luggage tag though, which I thought was a more subtle nod to the Paper Plane range.

I loved working on this commission as, like the bride, I am a huge fan of the Disaster Designs stuff.  I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get round to blogging about it (the wedding was in August!), but it’s here at last and I hope you all enjoy seeing it.

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A quick commission.  Simple, elegant, timeless.  A6 coptic bound notebook.






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